6 Web Design Trends for 2017

April 21, 2024
The modern look – clean, simple and authentic with minimal text and big, bold headings.

There are some exciting new design trends emerging on the web. Many are of interest only to those within the industry – but I’m writing this for ordinary business owners who want to know what the future holds for web design in 2017.

So here are six design trends, which are relevant to every business with a website – explained in non-techie language you can understand.

1. Content (more than ever) will be king

People have always visited websites for their content – i.e. the written words on the page and, increasingly, the spoken words through video.

It has taken the web design industry a while to realise this. But in 2017, most professional web designers have woken up to the fact that content really is king. Design is the icing on the cake – nice to have but not essential when the prime purpose of a website is to communicate information.

During the past two or three years, this focus on content has resulted in what’s known as ‘flat’ design. It’s a minimalist approach – and not all web designers like it. Many feel flat design has taken the “soul” out of design.

This is a valid argument in some respects. The conversation will continue in 2017 but most designers now realise they can’t afford to lose sight of the real heart of web design – the content.

2. Big, bold headings and typefaces

One way designers have tried to add creativity to the ‘content first’ approach is to make the content stand out more. This has resulted in big, bold headings. And there’s also a trend towards making all text larger, which makes it easier to read.

Having fewer words, bigger and bolder, forces you to think carefully about what those words will be. It’s a huge step in the right direction from a marketing viewpoint.

(It’s interesting to look back a few years, when the design trend was totally opposite. Funky designers were using tiny font sizes, with light grey text. It was difficult to read but the designers didn’t care – they were more interested in creating something that looked cutting edge rather than whether anyone could actually read it.)

In 2017, when people are overloaded with information, the trend towards having a few concise yet powerful statements on a web page will become bread-and-butter for businesses that are serious about selling online.

3. More businesses will adopt a ‘mobile first’ approach

Mobile phones have now overtaken desktop computers as the most popular way to access the internet. In fact, a recent survey of 18 – 34 year olds found more than 20% never use a desktop computer at all!

So it makes sense when designing a website to think carefully about how it will look on a phone. And this should not be just tacked on as an after-thought.

Many web design agencies are moving to a ‘mobile first’ approach to design – i.e. they do their initial mockups on a phone and then expand the design to work on tablets, laptops and computers.

This approach makes sense for several reasons. One great advantage is the restrictions of a mobile phone mean you need to think carefully about the core content and message you want to communicate.

Because smartphones are so small, it limits the amount of content a user can view at once. This forces you to focus on the essential information that should be on the web page. The designer can always add visual bells and whistles as they switch up to larger screened devices.

But by designing first and foremost for a phone, you ensure the most important content is delivered on every device.

Spotify’s website is a classic example of mobile first design. No clutter – just the essentials.

4. Responsive design will continue to increase

Responsive design is an approach to building websites using flexible layouts, so the site adjusts it’s content automatically to display on various-sized devices – from a computer down to a phone. It has been around for a few years. But in 2017, responsive design is set to become the norm when building websites.

One advantage of responsive design is that it allows a business to pay for just a single website – rather than building one site for desktops and a separate mobile site. And other big plus is it helps a website rank higher in Google search results. (Google recently announced it would be giving better rankings in its search results to websites that optimise their content for mobile phones.)

To see whether your site is ‘mobile-friendly’ you can use Google’s tool here.

And to see how your site looks on different devices, use this tool.

Responsive design – websites that resize automatically on every device.

5. More authentic photos and the decline of stock images

A big challenge for businesses today is to differentiate themselves from everyone else. You can’t do this if your website looks the same as every other – and in many cases you see the same stock images on many different websites. This becomes obvious after a while.

We all recognise those cheesy stock pictures of businessmen shaking hands, or attractive women smiling. They just won’t cut it anymore. People know when they are seeing generic images and it hurts the credibility of the business.

Web designers are now thinking more carefully about the imagery they use on sites. They will encourage businesses to hire professional photographers to take original shots, which are more representative of who they really are. It costs a bit more but it’s worth it for authenticity.

For smaller businesses with tight budgets, it will be a few years before the cringe-inducing stock photography completely disappears. But it’s likely to start falling off more quickly this year.

Along with original photography, there’s also a growing trend towards illustrations, including cartoons, which can capture the unique personality of the business.

Authenticity at its best. Not a stock image in sight, just bespoke illustrations and big, bold headings.

6. Video is becoming king

At the start of this post, I noted content is king. The growing trend in 2017 is for that content to be delivered through video. There’s no doubt about it, people find it easier to watch a video than read a page of text. This is why Youtube use has exploded and continues to do so.

The challenge with video is to do it well. Just as it’s pointless to fill a web page with dull written text, it is equally folly to create an amateur video and expect it do deliver results for your business.

Video is likely to dominate the web eventually. Maybe not in 2017. But given how rapidly video usage has grown in the past year or so, it makes sense to be looking seriously at how to incorporate video into your web marketing.

Video is so important, I intend to cover it more deeply in a future post.

So, how does your website stack up?

There’s a lot of uncertainty about the future of the economy in 2017. This could be a tough year for businesses. I’m looking seriously at my marketing, particularly how my website can be more effective in helping my business grow and prosper, whatever might happen this year.

I recommend you do the same. Take a look at your website and see how it measures up. And if it doesn’t, now’s the time to do something about it!